As we come to the middle of another week in this corona virus pandemic it is time for reflection and prayer on what is happening in the world, in our local communities as well as in our church families and within our circles of family and friends.
There are always issues for which we need to pray for one another, but also things that encourage us. One of these is a collaborative effort by a selection of worship leaders and singers from a varied network of Christian churches in the United Kingdom that have produced a song based on the Aaronic blessing from Numbers 6:22-27:
22 The Lord said to Moses, 23 ‘Tell Aaron and his sons, “This is how you are to bless the Israelites. Say to them: 24 ‘“‘The Lord bless you and keep you;25 the Lord make His face shine on you and be gracious to you;26 the Lord turn His face towards you and give you peace.’” 27 ‘So they will put My name on the Israelites, and I will bless them.’Take a few minutes to play this song and let its message minister into your life and circumstances today.
It’s called #TheBlessing
Let us look very briefly at this passage of Scripture and reflect on its message for us today.
This is how you are to bless the Israelites…. In the secular Western world people hope or aspire to success or fame or material prosperity, but in ancient Israel there was a desire deep within them to have the favour of God on their lives articulated through the recital of a blessing on them.
This form of words in Numbers 6:24-26, many scholars believe, was already fixed as a familiar blessing used in the Israelite community before it was written down as part of the text of Numbers chapter six. The framework of the blessing is in the plural, but the actual words of the benediction itself are in the singular The Lord bless you… The blessing was for the community of God’s people collectively, but like the gift of God’s unmerited favour in salvation through Jesus Christ, it was received individually and personally. Where does seeking God’s favour and blessing rank in your priorities in life?
The context is clearly the community of faith. 27 ‘So they will put My name on the Israelites, and I will bless them.’ The blessing of God is experienced as His people seek together to worship Him, live out His values in daily life and serve others in His name collectively. It is my hope and prayer that the rediscovered emphasis on community and ‘togetherness’ we have experienced in recent weeks will continue once this virus crisis fades into history.
The people of God must prioritise gathering together for worship and fellowship, as well as going out for witness and service in the wider community. Solitary Christianity is not an expression of the faith envisaged by Jesus or the Early Church. Belonging to and actively participating in the life of a local church is something Jesus envisaged as He is building His Church.
There are three sections to the actual blessing recited over the Israelites:
First: The Lord bless you… what kind of blessings were these first recipients hoping for? Undoubtedly this declaration includes aspirations to be loved and to love, which for some might include the gift of marriage and the blessing of children; for many of them it would certainly include the gift of close friendships; there would certainly be a hope for the joy of a place to call home and the provision of the necessary food and other essential supplies required each new day.
The Lord keep you; If blessing was about provisions, this declaration was about divine protection. For example, Exodus 23:20 where God said to the nation of Israel through Moses: See, I am sending an angel ahead of you to guard you along the way and to bring you to the place I have prepared. It is the same word used by Joshua, the second leader of the nation of Israel after Moses, at the end of his life in Joshua 24:17. He has spoken of the miracle of the Exodus from Egypt, but goes on to speak of so much more from God: He protected us on our entire journey and among all the nations through which we travelled. Our God is the One we have confidence in to provide all our needs.
Second: the Lord make His face shine on you…It was a plea for God’s divine pleasure to be revealed through answered prayer for His servants. Let Your face shine on Your servant;
save me in Your unfailing love (Psalm 31:16). Remember Moses who led the Israelites out of Egypt and who spent a long time in God’s nearer presence receiving the Ten Commandments. Exodus 34:29b: His face was radiant because he had spoken with the Lord. The declaration is a call for divine approval on the recipient…. and be gracious to you; grace is given to the undeserving.
Exodus 34:6b-7a contains some precious words about the character of the One who gave Moses the Ten Commandments: ‘The Lord, the Lord, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, 7 maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin. So soon after this gift of the Ten Commandments the Israelites fell into sin and needed a call to repentance to restore them to God’s favour.
Do you actively desire God’s favour on your life? If you are serious about it then it will affect your behavioural choices. Or do you need God’s grace and forgiveness? If this is a genuine desire to say sorry to God for something, then He sees our heart and forgives us, because of Jesus’s sacrifice on the cross in our place around 2,000 years ago.
Thirdly: The Lord turn His face towards you and give you peace [Shalom]. When someone looks you in the eyes you know you have their full attention at that moment in time. Here the call is for God to do that towards us as individuals! What is the culmination gift of this entire blessing? It is Shalom. It is much more than the absence of conflict. It includes the gift of contentment and for a sense of purpose and fulfilment in my life. Do you need to seek God’s shalom for your life today?
Listen to ‘The Blessing’ song again before we come to prayer.
Prayer Time for Wednesday 6 May 2020
- What blessings in particular do you want to thank God for today? Take some time to praise God for who He is and then thank Him for the things we can be grateful for in our lives.
- Pray for the many vulnerable countries, that they would receive the financial and humanitarian aid they need to prevent virus spread and meet people’s basic needs. And that aid may be distributed fairly within countries so that minority Christian and other faith communities don’t miss out on essential supplies in countries like Pakistan and India, for example.
- Continue to pray for the Government in Scotland and in the wider UK and for their clinical and scientific advisers, may they have the wisdom they need to make the right decisions at the right time.
- Pray for the physical, emotional and mental health of the staff and residents in Care Homes. Pray that supplies of the right equipment would get through to meet their needs. Pray for residents as they may struggle with the need to stay in their rooms and not having visitors. Please especially remember those who live and work in the Care Homes that our church led services in – Ferry House, Orchar, Elder Lea Manor, Ballumbie Court, Moyness and Balcarres. Pray also for our neighbour, Lochleven Care Home.
- Please continue to remember the NHS workers, whatever their role, as each one plays their part to ensure that we can access care when it’s needed. Pray for those who you know by name and ask God to sustain them.
- Pray for teachers, especially those known to you. Ask for God’s help for them as they adapt to new ways of teaching and for help with the frustrations that can bring. Pray that those working in school hubs would be able to work in safe ways and wouldn’t be put at unnecessary risk.
- Pray for parents who are trying to support their children with school work at home, particularly while trying to do their own work too. Pray for patience and understanding. Remember children and young people who have additional support needs and are now struggling with a big change to their routines and a reduction in their usual support services.
- Remember those with ongoing health issues in our church family just now, pray for the NHS to resume its usual services as soon as possible to attend to those waiting for operations, treatment plans, tests and check-ups.
- Pray for those recently bereaved that they may experience more of God’s love and comfort at this time.
- Pray for ourselves, ask God to help us to seek Him first in everything that we do and to always make time each day to read His word and spend time in His presence.